Pregnant women’s cannabis usage in legalized U.S. states raises calls for screening

Pregnant women living in US states where cannabis is legal must be screened for the drug, for the health of both mother and baby, claim scientists who in a new national study have found that they are far more likely to use the substance.

Published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the peer-reviewed research shows pregnant women were around 4.6 times more likely to report using cannabis, where it is legal for medical and recreation, compared to where CBD is only allowed.

A large proportion of women reported using the drug for medical purposes, which is in keeping with “a growing body of evidence” that suggests in order to alleviate pregnancy symptoms cannabis is being used as a substitute for medical drugs in legalized areas.

“Therefore it is increasingly important to evaluate the risk-benefit profile of cannabis as compared to other medical treatments to understand any potential therapeutic indications for cannabis use in pregnancy,” says Lead Author Kathak Vachhani, who was a student in the Keenan Research Summer Student Program at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, when the research was conducted.

The team is calling for prenatal and primary care providers to screen and counsel patients regarding cannabis use in pregnancy, particularly in states where it is legal, for the potential effects on fetal development.

They also state public messaging “around the risks” of cannabis in pregnancy is “particularly relevant now,” as many states have recently implemented cannabis laws and established cannabis markets.

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